I drew at sunset again. For the second time in a row I pulled the card Thanatos from The Wild Unknown Archetype Deck, even after shuffling the deck several times. It was the card on top. From the bottom, I drew Agape.
I tried to connect my feelings of divine love and wonder and my inner, emotional concept of death. There are some feelings about death and loss in me that I doubt my capacity to handle. Drawing and coloring, writing the actual words, helps me process my fears or doubts in a healing way.
I listened to Nina Simone and worked on reconciling living in the eternal present while looking at Thanatos as directly as I could manage, knowing that my body will one day return to the earth.
The word “pandemic” derives from the Greek words “pan,” meaning “all” and “demos,” meaning “people.”
The etymology of “pandemic” is different but somewhat related to the word “panic,’ which traces back to the French, “panique” and the Greek god Pan, the deity with goat legs, the torso of a man, and goat horns growing from his man-like skull.
According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, Pan became an exceedingly popular god whose name soldiers invoked in the heat of battle. Later, the terror and chaos that arises during war was also associated with this god.
My husband, a medical news journalist, began covering daily coronavirus reports the last week in January, after our return from the Palm Beach Poetry Festival.
By mid February, we saw how the virus was spreading like a panic. February 18, the stock market crashed in a virus-related scare, and I began to wonder if AWP would be canceled. But at that point I thought it would be fear mongering to ask my friends if they still planned to go.
Two weeks later, the conference went ahead as planned, but by late February and even into the first week of March, many of my friends decided not to go because they didn’t want to inadvertently bring the virus back to their own communities.
It wasn’t until the first week in March that the pandemic arrived in the county where I live. That week we were already doing “chicken wings” and “foot bumps” as greetings at the yoga studio where I practice. We were spacing ourselves at least six feet apart. The YMCA where I swim laps closed its group exercise programs, swimming lessons, and their child care hours.
The new coronavirus pandemic has also caused pandemonium, Latin for “the place of all demons.” It created “panic buying” among the people, as we raced to stores to buy cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and pantry items.
On Thursday, March 5, I pulled into a Trader Joe’s parking lot after a blissful yoga class. Even under ordinary circumstances, it’s inadvisable to enter a Trader Joe’s parking lot after practicing yoga, just because of the parking lot squeeze.
But I braved suburban car frenzy to buy some wine and a few other items for dinner, and was shocked to find almost the entire store depleted of bread, milk, frozen food, and staples like rice, pasta, and canned goods. (Plenty of beer and wine remained!)
It turned out that while I had been supine in savasana in a state of relaxation, the county school system had announced that schools would close and would transfer to an online platform.
One man in the county had been hospitalized and died, and several school staff members had come down with covid19. Apparently, many individuals had traveled to Italy during February and thus were exposed at airports or at their destinations.
We are all makers now. We are pan-artists. Some will make songs and stories to express their longings, their fears, their loneliness,
Others will bake bread, make yogurt, and grow gardens, domestic work that many have now recently embraced if they have the privilege of staying home.
I’ve written only two poems so far this month. The concept of April as poetry writing month has lost urgency for me. Poetry and art and all forms of myth-making and meaning-making are a means of spiritual survival now. It’s an ongoing practice that continually renews and sustains me.
Yoga, poetry, painting, long walks, and chopping vegetables are my way of loving the world and loving life. I hope all beings everywhere can look within and find what makes them whole, what heals them.
April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers.
In 1996, the Academy of American Poets designated April as National Poetry Month as a way to bring attention to the importance that poetry plays in our lives.
Last year at this time, I wrote about four or five poems, sharing them each week with a friend, and we would then give each other suggestions for revision or offer an interpretation of how we read the poem.
We’ve agreed to do the same weekly sharing of a new poem during April this year, too, but I can’t find a subject that I want to write about. I know many poets are probably writing about quarantine and social distancing, but that’s not where my mind is as far as writing goes.
I signed up to receive daily writing prompts from Two Sylvias Press, and I’m planning to go back to them at some point, but I can’t find the release valve on my writing brain to let the words just come.
Instead, I catch myself staring out the window for long stretches, watching the new hickory leaves unfurl. I’ve been walking my dog and letting him get filthy in the pond where pollen pools on the surface like a film of a crushed hard boiled egg yolk. I’m washing my hands probably more than I need to, considering the raw, chapped patches on the left hand.
I’ve re-started my personal yoga practice finally, although I have taken a few Zoom classes. It’s hard for me to pin myself down to a specific time to practice now that the classes are streamed live. When I’m home, I don’t usually keep to a schedule.
But maybe a schedule is what I need, especially if I want to beckon my creative mind. Sitting myself at my desk or out on the back porch with a pen and a notebook every day, just like I roll out my mat. Yoga, meditation, and writing are interconnected for me. One leads to another.
As far as The Wasteland goes, last year I was emerging from a painful depression during April, and I agreed with Eliot’s first line that “April is the cruelest month,” though maybe it was for different reasons than his own intentions for writing.
This year April is also a cruel month. Just when the earth is greening in the Northern hemisphere, thousands of people are dying. It’s a sorrow that’s hard to reconcile with the season.
Though we’re separated physically, mentally and spiritually we can still stay connected to each other.
Today, I took a Yin yoga class on Zoom and had the chance to engage with the instructors and the other students, who are also my dear friends. Honestly, the whole experience was a true delight.
Of course, I’d rather practice in person, but the energy we created together, each in our own rooms, transcended the limitations of physical space.
We connected on the imaginal plane, or the astral plane, as this concept is described in yogic philosophy.
When I left the room after the session, my husband was at his computer working, and I was so relaxed that I couldn’t enter into a conversation with him, since the wavelengths of our energy were so different.
He’s been working long hours because of the coronavirus. He’s a journalist who covers medical news, so it’s all hands on deck for him.
My job has been to prepare healthy meals, clean, and maintain an upbeat attitude. It’s the least I can do as we ride out this storm. I’m so grateful to all the people who are working to provide yoga classes, food, and mail to all of us.
If before this virus people didn’t realize how interconnected we all are, I hope more are now aware of our mutual dependence.
It’s been a month since I returned from Delray and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival held there in the Old School Square, and since then I’ve barely looked at the five poems I started in Adrian Matejka’s workshop.
Matejka is not only a gifted poet, but he’s also a brilliant teacher. We started the week off by reading A. Van Jordan’s essay on ways to enter the writing process of a persona poem, and each day we wrote a different type of poem by following some of Jordan’s guidelines.
The Big Smoke, Matejka’s book-length persona poem collection, explores the life and relationships of boxing legend Jack Johnson. Matejka writes in the voices of Jack Johnson and the women in Johnson’s life, an ambitious project that took eight years of research and writing. It wound up as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, a well-deserved honor.
In the workshop, he told us that the hardest poems for him to write were the ones in the voices of the women, and that he would never attempt to write in a woman’s voice again, not feeling able, artistically, to accurately portray a woman’s psyche in the first person.
Part of this discussion of whose voices to write in involved the subject of cultural appropriation. The week of the poetry festival, American Dirt launched, and with it, the controversy surrounding the white author’s choice to write in the first person about a migrant Latina woman and her struggles to cross into the US.
It was a timely example of the pitfalls of choosing to write in the voice of someone whose life is completely outside our own experiences. Maybe if author Jeanine Cummins had written in the third person, her book would have been more honest. Latinx writers felt justifiably angry that a white author would receive a six-figure advance to tell a story that wasn’t hers to tell.
All of this is to say that it’s no easy task to choose a voice to write in that’s also relevant to the times we’re living in. I tried to create the voice of the Mona Lisa, but gave her a sort of feminist mindset. I also wrote in the voice of a street tarot reader, a crystal ball, and Anne Boleyn, who was accused of applying witchcraft to seduce men who attended her in the court of Henry VIII.
The week in Delray went by in a blur and I was fairly exhausted the entire time, probably because we drove there from Atlanta in one day and didn’t arrive at our Airbnb until close to midnight. Delray is only an hour north of Miami, and has the unfortunate distinction of being close to Mar a Lago. While the festival was going on, the impeachment trial was, too. All of that was an uncomfortable tension buzzing in the background.
We’re in an Emperor year, but it feels like the Emperor is reversed.
According to Mary Greer, when the Emperor card shows up reversed in a reading, it indicates: “Autocrat. Self-righteous tyranny. Or, weak-willed, unmanly cowardice… Trust betrayed. Failed leader.”
All of these words can be applied to the current occupant of the White House as well as most members of the Republican legislature.
Where can we as a society find the stability, security, and order we seek? How can we heal the planet and also ourselves? By integrating our shadow and becoming whole. By reconfiguring old patriarchal values, a square pillar, into a circle divided by a cross, a mandala for wholeness, stability through inter connectivity.
October 13 was the full moon in Aries, which might account for my energetic impulse to sign up for an online class with Kiala Givehand called Pull, Pen, Paint.
While browsing the web for a full moon tarot spread, I came across Kiala’s course, and I was immediately hooked. She, along with several other artists, writers, astrologers, and intuitive Tarot readers, guides participants in using Tarot and oracle cards to chart a visual journey of self-knowledge.
In one of the first lessons, she shares some online places to find card spreads-today I went to Kim Krans’ page, The Wild Unknown and tried her “Awareness Spread.”
I recommend going directly to The Wild Unknown for a more detailed explanation of how this spread works, but here I’ll give you the basic order: The bottom card is the creative center, the second card is the heart center, the third card is the lower mind, and the fourth card represents the higher self.
I’ve taken a few IRL introductory workshops in card reading from Alice, Tarot Queen here in Atlanta, so I’m familiar with the basics. Alice does readings in person and through Skype in case you’re looking for someone to read your cards. She’s highly intuitive and has been studying the Tarot for a decade; she’s quite knowledgeable and kind, a perfect teacher for a newbie like me.
All of this is to say that I only read the cards for my own purposes, although from time to time I’ll get out my deck with friends and let them tell me what they think their cards mean to them. It’s like helping someone interpret a dream. Only the dreamer knows for sure if your interpretation rings true.
Without going into all the free writing I did for this Awareness Spread, I will share a few of my conclusions. For the third card, representing worries or mental habits that might be interfering with my creative endeavors, I pulled the Devil.
Honestly, I didn’t need to ponder this one too much. I’ve gotten into a habit of scouring the news every day to find some sign that maybe the Orange Menace will be deposed. It’s an unhealthy preoccupation. I’ve let that devil take up too much mental real estate.
The Queen of Swords represents my higher self. This card is part of my birth card constellation in the sun sign of Libra, so I immediately identified with her. Swords are ruled by the element of air. It’s Libra season and the air is cooler finally. In Ayurvedic health teachings, fall is the season of vata, the air element, and this dosha happens to be the strongest for me. In fact, I tend to be highly anxious if I don’t tend to grounding myself.
I love this time of year, before the holidays when it’s good to be outdoors again in Georgia. I feel the confidence this queen of swords displays. Clear minded, able to express myself, and excited about the possibilities that await with my writing and with a bit of dabbling with paint.
The Yoga Teacher Leads the Women in Camatkarasana In the Time of Fetal Heartbeat Bills
Nothing is born and nothing dies, she says.
Wheels of light keep spinning, circles
of energy that turn through the spine.
As you arch the back from root to crown,
cinch the energy with your rad corsets–
light your abdomen and lumbar from within. Indigo waves pulse at my third eye, in sync with Tibetan bowls and gongs sounding in the background, a flashpoint of understanding, a head rush. Ground your feet, she says,
shine your heart toward the sky, extend
one arm to the clouds. You’re wild things,
wheels of astonishment glittering in the sun
This is a poem of resistance in the face of State efforts to curtail women’s rights over their own bodies. I wrote it when this bill was passed in Georgia and elsewhere, and although a judge has placed an injunction on applying this law in Georgia until the case is settled, another case in LA is heading to the Supreme Court. It’s hard to stay focused on each limitation, each attempt to oppress the people, so in this poem, I focus on internal liberation, available to each one of us.
Tarot Card Spread from a prompt at Pretty Owl Poetry
Pretty Owl Poetry is calling for submissions of poetry prompts based on the Tarot. I decided to write a poem based on their prompt, but going forward, I might try my hand at an original prompt.
[The Camino Spills Across the Highlands]
The Camino spills across the highland
after crossing Basque Country mountains.
Poppies constellate gilded barley fields,
blood-red blossoms fibrillating like hearts
against the sky. So close to the sun here.
The astonishment of flower-comets
wilts with the heat, the weight of all the miles,
if I can remember the way home, no map
but the riddles spelled in the stars.
I didn’t look up the traditional meaning behind the cards, but tried to intuit the actions in each one and told a little story that the cards reflected to me.
I’m in the middle of writing a collection of poems about a pilgrimage I took to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, so when I saw the Page of Pentacles, my mind went to the moors in Spain and the delight of seeing the poppies in the fields.
The words in boldface come from Kimberly’s prompt. The words in italics are my impressions of the cards.
1.Mind of the poem, Page of Pentacles: awe and childlike or youthful curiosity at the beginning of a journey. Finding a treasure in a field.
2.Structure (body)– The Ten of Wands: The burden of gathering all ten wands, leaning into the labor, struggling against the work. The poem is bunched together in ten lines of ten syllables each to reflect the number ten and also the bunched up wands the man is carrying.
3.Spirit— The Chariot: The future is an enigma (Sphinx) that draws the chariot. The stars above are his only guide. He is a messenger of the gods (caduceus, symbol of Hermes). He’s leaving the comforts of home behind, unafraid.
Last night, the midpoint between spring equinox and summer solstice, I tried my hand at reading the cards, and lo and behold, I drew three Major Arcana cards!
It kind of freaked me out a little, like how important is this moment?
My question was, “What insights do I need to decide about my future travels?”
This is a question I’ve been considering, and I’ve come to the conclusion after a focused free write that I want to return to Spain for another pilgrimage, but it’s not going to be this summer (unless I win the lottery!).
I’ve taken this semester off from teaching to heal from a second fracture in my right foot, and I’ve finally found a pair of hiking boots that feel comfortable. Looks like I’ll be hiking in the US this summer, though.
Here is my reading of the three-card pattern I used, representing past, present, and future.
The Sun, past
The Sun card represents joy, freedom, optimism, vitality. When I think about the most liberating and joyful days of my past travels, my first pilgrimage to Spain naturally comes to mind.
The freedom I experienced on the way to Santiago in 2015 was as big as the sky, even when my feet and legs ached and my clothes were drenched in sweat.
Temperance speaks to me of healing. I’ve taken this semester off from teaching to rest my mind and heal my foot, which I fractured in 2017 on a second pilgrimage and later fractured again in the fall of 2018.
I couldn’t return to Spain last summer because I was still healing from my injuries, and when I increased my mileage, I had a second stress fracture.
Also, 2018 was a time of intense anxiety about the midterm elections. This current political climate has elevated the anxiety levels for so many of us elders. We want to leave this life with the peace of mind that the younger generations will inherit a just society that is working toward a healthy planet Earth.
We are connected to the earth. The Earth is alive, and we are part of it. The Earth’s health is connected to our health.
During this last year, especially last summer and fall, my mind was on helping with the midterm elections. I didn’t do nearly enough, but I made phone calls, wrote letters, and nagged my friends and family about voting.
Thankfully, Lucy McBath won in our district by running on a gun reform platform. Her election is a sign that enough people near me want to live in a safer, healthier world.
Wheel of Fortune, future
What a card to draw for the future! The Wheel of Fortune indicates karma, changes in circumstances, and fate.
I’m not sure what to think about my future travels when it comes to karma. What will be the consequences of my past actions when it comes to the places I go?
Some of my yoga buddies are planning a two-week trip to India for a yoga retreat with a well-respected yoga teacher in our area. But the trip is in November, and I might return to teaching by then. I do wish I could accompany them! If money were no object, I would.
I don’t have a strong desire to teach English Composition anymore. Adjunct professors are paid abysmally low salaries for the classes they teach. Read “Death of an Adjunct” for more insight. I’d like to find a different way to earn money, but I still haven’t found it.
So my future travels depend on many circumstances–finances, health, and time. After all of this thinking and writing, I am determined to return to Spain for another pilgrimage, but it won’t be this summer.
I’ll be traveling closer to home, hiking with my new boots on the beautiful trails of North Georgia.